Thursday, August 31, 2006

Virginia Episcopal Bishop Peter J. Lee announced yesterday that he and the newly consecrated Anglican Bishop Martyn Minns have failed to reach an agreement on allowing the new bishop to minister in the Virginia diocese.

Consecrated on Aug. 20 in Abuja, Nigeria, Bishop Minns continues to lead Truro Episcopal Church in Fairfax, one of several parishes considering leaving the diocese over the Episcopal Church’s 2003 decision to consecrate the openly homosexual V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire. On Sept. 17, Truro starts a “40 Days of Discernment” process on whether to leave the diocese.

Bishop Lee indicated in a letter to the 90,000-member diocese that he and Bishop Minns are at an impasse.

“Our discussions are continuing,” Bishop Lee wrote. “While I could wish for a more timely resolution to this situation, I am mindful that the Holy Spirit requires much of us, including patience.”

The Virginia bishop has had several discussions with Truro’s vestry — or governing board — as well as the diocesan standing committee over the matter, he added.

On June 29, Bishop Lee issued a statement saying it is canonically impossible for Bishop Minns to be a bishop for the Anglican Diocese of Nigeria while being a priest under the authority of the Diocese of Virginia. On Aug. 13, he issued another statement saying the two men would reach an agreement by the end of August on Bishop Minns’ standing.

In an interview published Aug. 18 in the London-based Church Times, Bishop Lee said he wanted to avoid lawsuits over the matter.

Jim Oakes, senior warden of Truro, insisted the two sides “are still talking.”

He added, “We’re grateful that Bishop Lee is continuing to take a gracious approach to working out this transition with us and we’re grateful for his pastoral concern for this congregation.”

Bishop Minns, who was on vacation yesterday, could not be reached for comment. He remains rector of Truro until his replacement is hired next year. He also heads up the Convocation for Anglicans in North America, a missionary effort by the Nigerians to minister to theologically conservative Episcopalians in liberal dioceses.

Bishop Minns is not salaried by CANA, said Mr. Oakes, adding, “We’d regard CANA as one of [Truro’s] many outreach activities.”

The Rev. Robert Prichard, church history professor at Virginia Theological Seminary, said the presence of two active bishops in one diocese heading up competing jurisdictions is unprecedented for Virginia.

“We have had bishops of breakaway Episcopal churches who were located in Virginia,” he said, “but they weren’t priests of the Diocese of Virginia who got ordained [as bishop] somewhere else and came back here and remained rector of their parish.

“It’s reverse colonialism,” he added. “Western nations used to send bishops to the Third World without a lot of concern for internal boundaries. This is a reverse example.”

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